Column, 670 words

Flying Over an Act of Monumental Stupidity

The great victims of this sequester will be our children, the unemployed, the poor and the elderly — all groups with feeble lobbies or no lobbies at all.

Donald Kaul

I knew that Congress would come to its senses eventually, that it would realize that the ham-handed budget cuts ordered by the so-called “sequester” weren’t going to work, that some government functions were too important to be cut.

And I was right, kind of.

Last week it restored funds to the Federal Aviation Administration. There had been big lines and flight delays at airports around the country, you see, and we can’t have that.

Congresspersons have to get back to their districts every Friday so they can beg for money and corporate executives have to get to their appointments on time so they’ll have the money to pay off the beggars. It’s called politics.

The way things were going at airports, however, was beyond inconvenient; it was a national crisis. Why, it was probably harming the war effort. I don’t know which war— terror, drugs, Afghanistan — pick one.

So, in a heart-warming example of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats joined hands to get the FAA back up to strength and the Republic was saved.

kaul-austerity-401(K) 2013

401(K) 2013/Flickr

Republicans, of course, could not resist using the occasion to take a whack at President Barack Obama.

“Why is President Obama unnecessarily delaying your flight?” tweeted House majority leader Eric Cantor. (Republicans are shameless in blaming Obama for things that are their fault.)

In truth, the Republicans foisted the farce of this sequester on the nation in 2011. That was when they demanded it in return for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling, which is nothing more than agreeing to pay the bills they’d already run up. The law further requires that agencies, the FAA included, cut all their programs equally on a percentage basis, making it impossible to move funds from nonessential functions to essential. That would be too sensible.

The idea was that this arrangement was such a monumentally stupid idea and would be so harmful to the economy that the parties would be forced to compromise on a real budget.

That badly underestimated the monumental stupidity of the conservatives in Congress. They decided that we didn’t need a real budget since we don’t need government anyway, so the sequester was just fine as it was. And they allowed the cuts to go forward.

Until they caved on air traffic. That’s undoubtedly a precursor to further cherry-picking among government programs. You can count on the well-lobbied programs getting exceptions. (The Agriculture Department has already gotten money to stay the furloughs of meat inspectors.)

It stinks.

The great victims of this sequester will be our children, the unemployed, the poor and the elderly — all groups with feeble lobbies or no lobbies at all.

The government had to cut housing vouchers to 140,000 low-income families, people already on the cusp of homelessness. Seventy thousand preschoolers are going to be turned away from Head Start programs. Unemployment benefits, the only thing standing between the families of millions of jobless workers and hunger, are being cut 11 percent. A program that provides free school breakfasts, sometimes the only decent meal poor kids get on a given day, is being cut by $25 million.

My city of Ann Arbor is a high-tax Granola liberal place that’s proud of its superb schools. And our local officials considered doing away with 10 or more of the reading specialists in the lower grades before working cuts that would drop 80 other staff members into the latest budget proposal.

All in the name of deficit reduction.

The sequester is the economic equivalent of the Iraq War: a self-mutilating blunder undertaken for ideological reasons, rather than any that make sense.

The idea of improving the economy during a recession by cutting the budget harkens back to the days of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. It didn’t work then; it doesn’t work now.

If you don’t believe me, ask the European nations that have been trying to deal with their punk economies by enforcing austerity measures on its Euro zone members with dismal results.

Did I mention that this stinks? It really does.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org

  • Wayne

    Donald: Was it your father, or your grandfather, who said “they’re all in it together”? That column was from about 35 years ago, so my memory is a little fuzzy on the details. My point is that the senate, apparently with beaucoup Democratic approval, favored removing the furlough for air traffic controllers via some special process that didn’t even require an individual vote? Instead of using the situation as leverage to deal with the sequester, the Democrats and the President did what they always do: give away the store. It makes you wonder who’s side they’re really on. In whatever way I could make them pay a price for that, regardless of party affiliation, I would do it. Do you think anyone is paying attention, or they too busy watching American Idol instead?

  • Ken Johnson

    Donald,
    You are still on top of your game, and it’s great to see your columns ocassionally now crop up in the Des Moines Register, although it would be even better if they covered you daily, like in the old days.
    That having been said, you are exactly right about the stupidity of the Republicans, but unfortunately, the Democrats aren’t much better. It’s time we voted all of them out of office, and got some folks in there that would approve term limits, so that they wouldn’t all be purchased by the special interests lobbies.

    • T4D

      Term limits will deliver legislative power to the unelected professional, congressional bureaucrats, K Street lobbyists, and the political party powerful. It won’t matter much who you elect then, they’ll be caught in a web of uncontrolled interests.

      • Thomas Ryan

        I agree about term limits. The only thing they really limit is the voters’ ability to elect whomever they want. If I don’t like my Congressman, Senator or President, well — they are already term-limited to 2, 6 and 4 years respectively. We-the-people are their employers, we can hire, rehire or fire them at will. So let’s not mess with amending the Constitution, lets just fire the bums.

  • thomas jefferson

    WOULD YOU WAKEUP,their ain’t no such thing as right OR left its all a sham,a dog and pony show,get it ,THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND owns everything at the whorehouse in washington DC,she owns them all, and NO CHANGE will make any difference at all,THAT UGLY DRUG DEALING WHORE has been caught,and she knows it,HAVE ANY OF YOU noticed your police gangs are gearing up for WAR WITH YOU??DHS ARE THE RUSSIANS,you have been SOLD out,forget about the queers in washington,YOU GOT WAY bigger problems then them,YOUR COUNTRY IS ABOUT TO BE ATTACKED by your own government,EVERY FOREIGN nation has sent their troops here,and it ain’t to give you a kiss on the cheek and a party present,THEIR HERE TO KILL YOUR DUMB ASS….WAKEUP before its to late……………………

    • JaylahP

      Wow, they have medications to cure what ails you, you know.

  • thomas jefferson

    A FRIEND OF MINE had a DREAM from the LORD,in the dream he saw hundreds of citizens being marched down a road out of a town by foreign troops,looked to be asian,the people were crying and saying HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING IN AMERICA,why didn’t we see this coming, our news people never said anything to warn us,how could this be happening,WELL BAD NEWS ain’t allowed on TV anymore,especialy about any wars,OR AIN’T YOU GUYS NOTICED THAT YET?they will be on you so fast it will be stupid,and when they come ,you’ll be lucky if your able to warn anyone ,much less save your own family,and thats if they aren’t already dead,their coming and very few will care till its to late……………………………….